NAVY 38, SMU 35

“These kids are unbelievable. Just when you think they can’t one-up themselves, they pull out another big win. Our kids are very resilient. Our kids are fighters. Even when the odds are stacked against them, they continue to plug away.”

Ken Niumatalolo summed things up nicely following Saturday’s dramatic 38-35 comeback win over SMU in Dallas. The old Navy football cliche of “these kids will never give up” certainly rang true, as the Mids overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit. Vince Murray led the way on the ground with 141 yards and 2 TDs. Ricky Dobbs added 89 yards and 2 TDs of his own. Ram Vela and Tyler Simmons paced the defense with 7 tackles apiece. SMU running back Shawnbrey McNeal led the Mustangs with 131 yards rushing, while Bo Levi Mitchell completed only 19 of 41 passing attempts for 200 yards.

What would turn into a miserable first half started out well enough. The Navy defense held SMU’s run and shoot to a 3 & out on their first possession. The Mids took over at midfield, and six plays later had a 7-0 lead. On the Mustangs’ second drive they turned to their own ground game, marching 79 yards on ten plays, seven of which were running plays. Now tied at 7, the Mids started their second possession in good field position after the SMU kickoff went out of bounds. They were able to move the ball once again, driving to the SMU 27 before facing a 4th & 1. It was there that everything sort of went to hell.

Coach Niumatalolo decided to go for it, as he often does– usually successfully. Not this time, though. Ricky was stopped for no gain, and Navy turned the ball over on downs. When the offense got the ball back after an SMU punt, they were backed up to their own 11-yard line. Two straight false start penalties killed this drive, forcing Navy to punt and giving SMU the ball at midfield. Five plays later, it was 14-7 SMU. Yet another Navy penalty on the ensuing kickoff forced the Mids to start the next drive from their own 7. On the first play of the drive, Pete Fleps hit Bobby Doyle, forcing a fumble that was recovered by SMU in the end zone. It was a tie game 16 seconds earlier; now, it was 21-7 SMU.

It could have been worse. With the Mids unable to move the ball for the remainder of the second quarter, SMU’s next two drives started at the Navy 40 and their own 42, respectively. But good defense from Navy– and less than accurate passing from Bo Levi Mitchell– kept SMU from doing any more damage. Once again, the Navy defense was able to carry the load while the offense got its act together. Mercifully, the half ended.

It’s not as if SMU was doing anything unusual to stop the Navy offense. As suspected, the whole 4-man front, same-schemes-as-last-year crap was a total smokescreen. SMU came out with a 5-man front. On the first drive, they even looked a little bit like Air Force. Scheme-wise, anyway. The safeties played in a cover 2, with the playside safety stepping up in run support. At first, the pitch key also stepped into the backfield to cover the pitch.

This forced the quarterback inside, where he was met by a linebacker. That’s where SMU’s plan differed a bit. They had both inside linebackers dancing back and forth around the line of scrimmage on almost every play. Only one of them usually blitzed. The other would key on the quarterback. Coach Jasper called the counter option, with the pulling guard blocking the linebacker spying on the QB. On the first play, the WR blocks the run support safety. The playside A-back, Cory Finnerty, gets just enough of a cut on the cornerback to spring Marcus Curry. The second play in the clip is the same play, run during the doldrums of the second quarter. Here, the pulling guard misses the linebacker, and the play is blown up.

It was that kind of self-destruction that kept the Navy offense from gaining any momentum in the second quarter. The execution was much better after halftime. Here, you can see the playside tackle release outside of the give key to block the inside-out linebacker pursuit. The other inside linebacker gets caught up in traffic and can’t reach the pitch. The playside A-back blocks the run support safety. Notice in the second play how confused the pitch key looks.

As the second half progressed, the playside DE would vary between inside and outside techniques when lined up on the tackle. To counter this, Coach Jasper made a really cool blocking adjustment. He ran the triple option, but had the fullback run off tackle. The outside LB that was once the pitch key became the give key (#1), while the cornerback went unblocked as the pitch key (#2). The wide receiver would block the run support, while the playside A-back took care of linebacker pursuit.

Subtle changes and better execution helped the Mids generate 301 of their 399 yards of total offense in the second half.

Defensively, I think this was a better game than it might appear at first glance, with 35 points sitting on the scoreboard. Obviously, the defense wasn’t responsible for 7 of those points. They did give up 376 yards, but that is about average for SMU. Buddy Green’s game plan took away most of SMU’s short passing game, forcing them to either throw long– which Bo Levi Mitchell wasn’t able to do with any accuracy– or run. The Mustangs were able to run the ball a bit, thanks to Miami transfer Shawnbrey McNeal. But McNeal only had 15 carries. Consistently running the ball just isn’t what SMU’s offense was designed to do. If you’re forcing June Jones to run the ball, then you’ve won the battle.

Some stream of consciousness stuff–

Matt Mike Walsh was dominating at nose guard against Rice, but had a much tougher go of things against a legitimate all-conference contender like SMU’s Mitch Enright. Hopefully one of the regular nose guards will be available to play against Wake Forest and their senior-laden group.

— The maturation of Vince Murray continues to happen right before our eyes. Murray’s career-high 141 yards rushing were highlighted by a 52-yard scamper in the second half off of a designed handoff. Take a lok at these plays. In the first, the playside guard was unable to lay a block on the linebacker, and the play looked like something out of the Air Force game. On the second play, the guard makes that block. With the safety keying on the motion slotback, it vacates the middle of the field, and Murray runs wild. It’s the third play that’s my favorite, though. Here, Murray keeps his head up and is able to cut back to avoid traffic and make his way to the end zone.

— The flag for a face mask was picked up at the end of Murray’s long run. Just one of several ridiculous calls by the officials on the day. After the whistle on this kickoff, an SMU player executes a throw on Bo Snelson that would be good enough to validate Judo class. The call? Personal foul on Snelson.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

— I’m fairly confident that the television broadcast was produced by the Hebron High School A/V club. Holy crap. I’ve seen better television productions of Slamball broadcasts. I can tolerate clueless homers in the booth up to a point, but when you’re cutting away from game action to show Bill the Goat in the front lean & rest, then you suck.

Another pet peeve… I own an HDTV, bought back when Navy signed their deal for home games to be shown on HDNet. The best part of owning an HDTV to me isn’t the clear picture– it’s the wide screen. It allows me to see all 11 players on each side of the ball. Now, there was obviously nothing remotely high definition about Saturday’s television coverage. Still, an unfortunate trend in football games recently, HD or not, has been to zoom in so tightly to the ball that you can’t see what is happening away from it. This wasn’t unique to this game; it has been a problem with CBS College Sports, too. There is so much more to football than just the ballcarrier. Good broadcasts try to make you feel like you’re at the game, not make you feel like you’re at the game with a telescope.

— Speaking of the horrible TV coverage, it’s time to retire another cliche. No more references to the lack of “quick strike” ability of the Navy offense, please. All 5 of Navy’s scoring drives in regulation took less than 4 minutes. The old myth of “just get up by a couple scores early on this offense and they can’t play catch-up” that people use as “analysis” gets disproven over and over again. Between Temple and Notre Dame last year, and Ohio State, Louisiana Tech, and SMU this year, Navy has shown a remarkable ability to put themselves in a position to win after falling behind. Then again, people still think this is the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust wishbone. Because they’re idiots.

36 thoughts on “NAVY 38, SMU 35

  1. Section 130

    C’mon, Mike – they’re not idiots. They’re just ignorant and lazy and unprofessional. And clueless. Idiots have an excuse – that crew and their employer do not.

    Thanks for another precise and painstaking breakdown. Your analysis is one of the highlights of the week.

  2. charles anderson

    I’m looking forward to your breakdown of the Wake Forest-Navy game, as Georgia Tech plays Wake after Navy. The change that Jasper made at half sounds astonishingly like the change Johnson made at half against Virginia Tech. Lastly, all that goofiness about three yards and a cloud of dust, whether at Navy or Georgia Tech, really is from the usual gang of idiots. Don’t know about Navy, but Tech seems to routinely bust out a long run and run up huge amounts of rushing yardage — yep, at this level — and to many of us, running the option is the most exciting offense in college football. Anybody can score throwing the ball forward. it takes a genius to score winging it sideways and backwards.

  3. charles anderson

    I forgot to add, and apologize, in regards to the “Wishbone”. The former ND coach whose name escapes me — must be really unforgettable — spent the entire night on ESPN2 for the FSU game talking about Tech’s “wishbone”, and at one point directly contradicted any claim by Johnson that it was a spread option. It was, he said, the wishbone, and Johnson was just gussying it up. Come a week later the same crew had the Va. Tech game, and the former coach mentioned the wishbone not at all, and referred to it as the spread option. Think Paul Johnson educated him at a TV production meeting?

    But at least, and maybe temporarily, down in ACC territory, the columnists and radio and TV talking heads have given up saying the offense will never work. Their new tack is that Johnson won’t be able to recruit for it. Don’t know what is next, but there will be something. Apparently the only acceptable offense is what everybody else runs: drop back seven and chunk it 35 yards while the pachyderms in the offensive line drop back to stand in front of the QB. You know, like North Carolina plays.

  4. GoalieLax

    thanks for reminding me the broadcast team weren’t the only morons

    the merry band of idiots in stripes had some of the dumbest freaking calls…makes that SEC crew look like geniuses

  5. Elliott

    ha. charles, i was just going to mention that game too.

    i’ve just watched the tech/fsu game and the commentary is shocking.

    it’s as if they’ve had no experience of it at all.

    “here comes that duck play”

    you mean the QB kept the ball rather than giving to the FB? As in the second of the 3 options?

    It was woeful.

    Can someone please produce an A4 factsheet about flexbone, explaining terms, history, plays, facts, and send it to the broadcasters. It would help them so much, and it would help the hole in my wall at head level too.

  6. Joe92


    Again, great post. It is definitely a highlight of the week. Even when i don’t get to see the game, like this past week, I get the full download.

    Sidenote, did you see Ricky limping after the touchdown run in your fourth video insert, above?

  7. DJ

    On ESPN radio yesterday, they ran a segment on how baseball fans all think that the announcers on national broadcasts are idiots. The reasoning is that these announcers see your team play maybe 10 of 162 games, so the average fan usually knows more about their team.

    The same can be said for your non-powerhouse college football team. They pop in some film on Thursday, interview a couple players and coach on Friday for a fluff piece, and then filibuster all Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, if you are reader of the birddog and you are hoping to have insightful analysis of the goats on TV, you will be let down.

    Great job as always Mike. The LOL guy looked like he was playing whack-a-mole but his reactions were just too slow.

  8. EKWJR

    Thanks for the writeup and analysis. Great as ever. I found the announcers less annoying when I watched the re-play, but probably just because I knew what the outcome was going to be.

    I think an unsung hero in this game is Kevin Edwards. It looked to me like SMU tried to pick on him, at least based on the amount of long balls thrown his way – the sort of thing that you see in many a pro game…a compliment to Blake Carter as an aside..and Edwards stood tall in my book. I thought Edwards played one heck of a game.

  9. Formerly Anonymous

    “Matt” er, Mike Walsh has done a great job at nose. He has more solo tackles in his two games than Burge and Stephens combined in their 5 games (not to mention he has got broken up two passes). I realize this statistic is skewed because Walsh hasn’t shared time like Stephens and Burge have. But it also means he hasn’t had the luxury of being “spelled.” Nevertheless, getting either Burge or Stephens (or both) back will only help the defense. Maybe that’s what you meant but “get one of the regular nose guards back” sounded like a slight.

  10. Matt

    Well nothing beats listening to the game on WNAV, at least those guys know what they’re talking about, and its free anywhere in the world with the internet. (Unlike Oceanic Timewarner which wants to charge $60 extra for CBS College… but thats another story.)

    Also, I remember watching the ‘duck’ plays in the GT game. I was hoping the QB would hand it off to the full back, I’m pretty sure that would have blown the announcers mind as he seemed to have no idea that the QB was making a read and not blindly following fullback.

  11. Formerly Anonymous

    No need for an apology. Once more, I loved the breakdown–thorough, insightful, and entertaining. I think Freddie Blassie invented the “suplex” (or at least the knee drop). You have a thorough knowledge of the TO and can certainly break down film.

  12. The Paws

    Re those MASN commentators—-At one point they were discussing Navy being one of only 4 schools that had graduated both a future NFL quarterback and a US president. Am I the only one who heard one of them comment that in Navy’s case the QB had to be Staubach and then wonder aloud that perhaps the president was Eisenhower?!

    Btw, I also hope I’m not the only one who fired off an email to MASN about the horrible quality of this broadcast in terms of directing and on-air “talent.”

  13. Goebs

    Paws, you’re barking up the wrong tree. MASN was nice enough to bring the feed – but the announcers/production was done out of Dallas.

  14. W4ATL

    During the Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech game I noticed that the ESPN camera would not zoom in on the ball carrier like they usually do. They started out with a wide angle shot of the offense and then zoomed in. They started doing this because the cameraman was having a hard time following the ball. But it is great for seeing a play develop,

  15. Hardcore24

    Agree w/ tbd & Goebs above –> I was tickled pink that MASN decided to carry the game, … enabling me to watch it live from the comfort of my living room.

    Great write-up & analysis Mike (as usual), … howsomever, I think that Navy coming out throwing (after the initial “dud” possession of the 2nd half) was key to the Offense being able to execute/run the TO much more effectively the remainder of the game.
    Whether it served as an “emotional spark”, or actually “loosened up” the SMU defense, … things just seemed to go better for Dobbs & the “O” after those back-2-back completions.

    Beat WF!!!

  16. NavyFan

    stupid e-mails to MASN do nothing but hurt. The next time they will just say forget it and not bring the game back to the area. It was obvious it was not a MASN broadcast.

  17. I agree about the passing, Hardcore. I couldn’t really look at what went into those passes, though, since the camera was in so tight that you couldn’t see the secondary on most plays.

  18. Ken

    Emails to MASN, even if misguided, actually confirm that people are rabid navy fans and will watch subpar broadcasts. I think they probably would help in the long run.

  19. Jimbear NJ

    Even worse than the announcers was the director. He constantly held crowd shots after the ball was snapped. The only good thing about the SMU gamecast was the commericals featuring the hot SMU volleyball girl hawkin season tickets.

  20. mason

    I noticed too that they ESPN production had a wider camerae angle than normal to show the hole field.
    I wish that they hadn’t.
    Being a VT fan, it would have been significantly less painful if I didn’t have evidence in front of my eyes that our D coordinator not only came in with a proven-to-fail gameplan, but failed to make any adjustements at any point during the game.

  21. USNA Ancient

    in 61 years of attending, listening to, and watching Navy football this was witout a doubt the worst announced, worst directed, and one of the worst called games I have ever experienced … oops, I forgot the idiot female on the sideline. “Homies” are one thing, but ignorant incompetence is something else. That said, WAY TO GO, NAVY ! and thanks MASN for the attempt … being able to see the game in spite of everything was awesome !

    Kudos to Mike as usual … to bad you don’t do the games !

  22. Navy79

    Those of us at SMU Saturday were obviously spared the crappy TV coverage, but we had to deal with equally poor PA system at Ford Stadium. Not that we needed to hear anything, except we would have loved to have been able to here the Ref’s explanation of why the flag on the Murray facemask was picked up. Jumbotron replay clearly showed a facemask. What was the explanation, other than that the crew were morons. Thanks!

  23. MontanaBlue&Gold

    Mike –

    Living in Montana, I missed out on ANY coverage of the game (I get most of them on CBS Sports). Any ideas where I can get a copy of the game?

  24. I’m not sure there was an explanation other than the crew were morons.

    MBG – There are allegedly copies of the game being sold at that Metrosports link I posted.

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